Scenic Coastal Hike in Hawaii- Discover the Ala Kahakai Trail


Are you looking for a “big bang for your buck” hike while you are visiting West Hawaii? Or perhaps you are local resident looking for something new to explore. Let me share with you a little known, but awesome hike along the gorgeous Kohala Coast about 25 minutes north of Kailua Kona.

What IS the Ala Kahakai Trail?

Established in 2000 for the preservation, protection and interpretation of traditional Native Hawaiian culture and natural resources, Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail is a 175 mile corridor and trail network of cultural and historical significance. It traverses through hundreds of ancient Hawaiian settlement sites and over 200 ahupua’a (traditional land divisions). You can hike different portions of the trail from North Kohala all the way to Hookena Beach, 35 minutes south of Kona.

Spencer Beach to Hapuna Beach- 3 mile portion

The Ala Kahakai Trail from Spencer Beach to Mauna Kea Resort and Kauna’oa Bay is a relatively easy hike, and you find some hidden white sand beaches along with way. HOWEVER, there is a small portion before the resort that you have to walk down a steep lava mound on one side and scramble up a wall of rocks on the other. This is not a big deal for most hikers of average ability, but we did the hike with two elderly friends who needed a little extra help traversing those areas.

The trail from Kauna’oa Bay to Hapuna Beach is hot. There is not much vegetation, hence shade, and you have to be careful of the exposed lava rocks on the trails in the dust. I was running this trail once and went flying when I tripped on an outcropping. Thank goodness I landed in the weeds on the side of the trail and not on the open lava, as falling on the lava is like landing on broken glass. (Remember this if you have small children around lava. My son from ages 3-7 has scars to show what happens when you are not careful and trip while exploring).

Once you get to Hapuna Beach, you can jump in the ocean and enjoy a well deserved picnic! You can even go get a tropical yum yum at the bar at the Hapuna Prince Hotel, but you may not want to hike back to Spencer afterwards!

Novice Tip: Drop a Car and Only Hike One Way

We had four of us and we dropped a car at the Hapuna Beach parking lot at 8:30 am, we were walking by 9 and enjoying snacks by 11:30 and swimming for a while at Hapuna and then we all drove back together to Spencer Beach, thus eliminating the hot three mile hike BACK the way we came. We actually decided to go get some hamburgers and shakes at Kohala Burger and Taco, too, which is a five minute drive north of Spencer.

Hiking in Hawaii Tip

Remember to wear sturdy shoes and even long lightweight hiking pants if you are worried about sun exposure or tripping. I probably don’t need to tell you this, but avoid hiking after dark. Cracks, crevasses, and cliffs look like shadows – depth is not evident in the dark and, as we say here in Hawaii..the trail is for the ancients after dark anyway.

Overall, this is a great experience to see the rugged coastline, but have public bathrooms along the way, access to drinking water, gorgeous views of our best white sand beaches and you definitely will want to take a swim at one of the five beaches you pass along the way.


Watch the Video of the Hike!

Not sure if this is for you? Watch our video of the hike and you can see for yourself how beautiful the views are and what the terrain of the trail looks like. You can say thank you by subscribing to our YouTube channel!

If you find yourself considering a move to Hawaii Island, be sure to check out my “Moving to Hawaii” resources including two books and numerous blog posts and videos! Also, if you want more up to date news on what’s happening Kona and fun things to do, subscribe to my newsletter from the front page. 



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Meet the Author

Julie Ziemelis

Julie Ziemelis is an entrepreneur, business owner, author, blogger and vlogger in Kailua Kona. She created and moderates the “365 Things to Do in Kona” page and the Kona Newbies group on Facebook. She blogs at and and vlogs with her husband, Eric, at “365Hawaii” on YouTube. Julie also authored the books, “How to Move to Kona” and the “Insiders Guide to Buying Real Estate on the Big Island of Hawaii”. You will most likely find Julie in Kona hiking, running, biking, taking photos and sharing Aloha.

Leave a Question or Comment About this Topic

  • Jeanne says:

    Aloha! Trying to figure out where you park for the second hike. Somewhere behind Otec?

    • Julie Ziemelis says:

      We parked at the base of the road when you come down from NELHA. The gates are now open, so you can drive as far south as the bathrooms to the base of the trail.